A Magical Tour of the Night Sky: Use the Planets and Stars for Personal and Sacred Discovery, by Renna Shesso
Weiser, 9781578634958, 261 pp., 2011
A Magical Tour of the Night Sky is a pretty unique book. Despite the title, sub-title , and even some of the back cover this is not a book about astrology; it is a book about the sky, and our selves. While astrology does come up, there is some discussion of signs and planets and what they mean in astrology but it isn’t about astrology really, there are no mentions of personality traits, predictions, or matching Sun signs with one another. Instead this book focuses on the mythology, and the astronomy, the latter making it an especially interesting book.
Each chapter – starting with the Pole Star, to the Zodiac, then out through the planets – has Shesso weaving together mythology and history from various cultures, most notably Greco-Roman, Norse, Egyptian, and Babylonian. The reader is given a sense of the spiritual importance placed on the planets, as well as seeing how these views permeated the cultures and show up in everything from basket weaving to architecture. Though occasionally the links feel like a bit of a stretch, and some are just incorrect (the etymology of Yule and the history of term Summerland for instance) overall they’re sound and intriguing. She also then explains some of the astronomy behind the planets, and that’s the section that is probably most useful to a magickal practitioner. To generalize most Pagans (like most people in general in modern Western culture) can’t look at the Moon and say if it is waxing or waning, but Shesso explains simple ways to tell just that. She explains how the orbits and motions of Mercury and Venus function, the appearance of the morning/evening star, and interesting mathematical and astronomical facts about each, such as how Venus’ solar conjunctions slowly trace a pentagram in the sky. The ability to locate and understand the movements of the planets is a great step in being able to use them more efficiently. Continue reading
For many people, their first introduction to the Song of Amergin came through Robert Graves’ The White Goddess. Graves states that, “English poetic education should, really, begin not with Canterbury Tales, not with the Odyssey, not even with Genesis, but with the Song of Amergin.”
However, despite this apparently reverential beginning; Graves does not actually put forward the Song of Amergin as we have it; rather he begins by utterly changing this ancient poem to better fit his own pet theory, connecting the lines from this poem to the Ogham alphabet and the “months” of the year. This creates a vague pattern, unprecedented in either nature or the Gaelic source culture he purports to respect.
Graves provides neither the original Irish poem, nor anyone else’s English translation. Instead he just sets off on his own imaginative journey. Continue reading
In a recent discussion, I was asked about tarot’s role in decision-making. We’ve looked at tarot and accuracy, and sharing bad news with a client, but what happens when they want you or the cards to make a decision for them?
I’ve heard it’s not “good” practice to expect the tarot to make decisions for you and it may be better to only ask it what the outcomes to things might be if you continue down the same path?
Many will suggest that the mere fact the querent is aware of new possibilities may alter the outcome, but past experience has demonstrated that it is incredibly rare for someone to radically change their character, even when it may be in their best interest to do so. Continue reading
Recently I posted a list of my top five foundational books on tarot – books that give a solid grounding in tarot’s history and practical use.
I’m no tarotist scholar, and I found Decker’s article in Gnosis (#46, Winter 1998) convincing and enlightening. However, I was left unconvinced that there was no connection to esoteric Egyptian tradition. Tony Bushby…suggests that 22 Hebrew characters were ‘occulted’ in the Egyptian Book of Thoth/God, and that ‘tarot’ is a plural form of Torah. [...]
In tarot’s fairly well documented history (letters, accounting ledgers, early examples of tarot cards and “regular” playing cards, etc.), there is absolutely no suggestion whatsoever that tarot cards were intended for use as anything other than an innovating card game. Serious tarot practitioners know this, it’s the occultists who resist reading anything in depth outside their genre – and I say this as an occultist myself! (Probably because occultists have invested so much in the mystification of tarot they figure it’d be a shame to stop now.) Continue reading
Runecaster’s Handbook: the Well of Wyrd, by Edred Thorsson
Red Wheel/Weiser, 9781578631360, 129 pp. (incl. glossary and index), 1988, 1999
Runecaster’s Handbook is a concise volume, targeted at providing the reader with just enough information to go about making and casting the rune-lots. As such, it touches briefly on a great many subjects, constantly referencing and referring the curious reader to Thorsson’s other works: Futhark: A Handbook of Rune Magic, and Runelore: A Handbook of Esoteric Runology.
Thorsson begins with a chapter on the history of the runes, followed by a chapter on divinatory theory. His approach to history is scholarly rather than the wishful thinking commonly found in Occult or New Age books. He clearly outlines which associations and practices have been documented historically and is explicit in presenting interpretation as interpretation rather than fact. Continue reading